The Right Way to Copy

One of the things that I am most passionate about is showing respect for the ingenuity of others. Working in an ecosystem where I am often competing very closely, it is inevitable that I will be confronted with situations where the easy thing is to match/copy/remix someone else’s ideas into my own app.

What I have found very frustrating is that I haven’t been able to define what is acceptable in a manner that comes anywhere close to the importance I think this topic demands. Too often I am left with just an I’ll know it when I see it definition.

With that in mind I present a game that I came across this evening. I think it perfectly encapsulates the positive side of the issue in a way that is hopefully instructive to showcase. The game in question is FlappyGolf.

Rather than simply being one of the countless clones its creators took the mechanic that made Flappy Bird novel and applied it in a completely different context. The game (other than being interspersed with horrific advertising) is fantastic. I would never have thought that flapping a golf ball around a course could be so fun.

Other than being a great way to lose an evening this game also help me to put into more concrete terms the kind of copying that is helpful and productive for our industry.

Good copying learns from another’s innovation and then applies it in a novel way to a new context in a way that doesn’t diminish the source invention.

It should enhance the overall ingenuity of the system, rather than simply adding crowding to it. It should summon a reaction of “Wow, why didn’t I think of that!” If it doesn’t, tread carefully.

David Smith